CPC licence

The Academy of the International Road Transport Union (IRU) has held a series of four seminars across Europe under the DRIVEN banner (drivers and road transport instructors vocational European network), looking at how member states have implemented the EU Driver CPC directive.

DRIVEN rolled into the UK in October, being held alongside the Commercial Motor Live event at Millbrook in October, attracting more than 70 operators and training companies to a packed day of keynote presentations and hands-on workshops.

A key issue for trainers and transport firms across the UK and Europe is whether the industry will meet the requirement for drivers to complete the required 35 hours of Driver CPC training in the five-year period to 2014.

Another big question in the UK in particular is whether the quality of training is always up to the minimum standards set out by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) and JAUPT, the body set up to accredit Driver CPC training.

Mark Magee, head of modernising driver training at the DSA, told the conference that, in general, the standard of training offered to drivers so far in the UK was of “good quality”.

The DSA carries out unannounced audits on the 1,247 approved Driver CPC training centres in the UK that offer a total of 3,157 approved training courses.

Magee said: “In 2010/11 a total of 278 audits were carried out, but this figure is set to rise to 1,100 audits for the 2012/13 period.”

As a result of the audits, the police have got involved in two investigations into training providers (one of these being the much-publicised case involving the trade union URTU).

Positive approach

Taking a positive approach to Driver CPC, Steve Ellis, head of training at the RHA, said Driver CPC training has the potential to reduce fuel consumption and lower damage costs for operators.

“Even some of the most anti-training drivers have been motivated following our sessions, and there have been major changes of attitude along the way,” he explained. “Operators and drivers are no longer viewing it as a box-ticking exercise, as they recognise the opportunities on offer.”

Patrick Henry, national driver development manager at Kuehne+Nagel, outlined how the company is investing heavily in CPC training for its drivers. He listed the benefits as the positive impact on driver morale, improvement in behavioural skills, awareness of costs, staff retention and enhanced road safety.

Henry added: “There are hundreds of dedicated, hard-working people in the industry who are committed to making the Driver CPC work.”

Jason Vallint, business development director at one of the largest Driver CPC training providers AA Drivetech, told attendees that initially there had been widespread scepticism in the industry that the Driver CPC was a genuine requirement.

Some still even had the misguided “it will go away” attitude, he said, and prices for seven-hour training courses varied widely as some drivers sought the lowest-cost route to compliance.

“Trainers are gradually finding a consensus over what to charge, but for haulage firms the Driver CPC must be seen as a return on investment, not a box-ticking exercise,” he insisted. “Trainer competence and ability to impart knowledge remains variable and questionable and often remains undetected until the course audits. The key aspects of the Driver CPC must be content, scope, depth, consistency and relevance.”

Valérie Hervé, EU project manager at French national training associationPromotrans, went on to outline the situation in France, where there are 37,000 road freight operators, with 97% of haulage firms having fewer than 50 employees.

She said: “There has been a course similar to the Driver CPC in France since 1995, and employers have a legal obligation to fund vocational training. Central and regional governments also participate in the funding of vocational training. State and regional responsibility for this funding is specified by law.”

Polish situation

Bohdan Szuszkiewicz, specialist in training at nationwide association of international road transport carriers ZMPD ATI in Poland, then told the conference about the situation in his country.

There are 100,000 transport companies in Poland – most of them own-account – and 85% of operators have fewer than 10 trucks. Szuszkiewicz said that in his view, there were unnecessary requirements in Poland such as compulsory skid pad training in vehicles with disconnectable ABS.

He added: “There is a complete lack of vocational schools for drivers in Poland. We used to have training by the military for drivers, but no longer. We need more vocational schools in Poland.”

Szuszkiewicz said that the number of drivers allowed in each Driver CPC training session was not regulated, and while classes of 15 to 35 were typical, it was not unheard of for 30 to 50 drivers to be in the classroom. In one extreme example, 180 people had taken one seven-hour course.

And, according to Szuszkiewicz, Poland needs minimum, harmonised qualifications for trainers.

“In Poland, there is no obligatory training for trainers and teachers and the Polish regulations do not specify minimum qualifications,” he said. “The qualifications of trainers are not verified by the authorities and there is a lack of real consultation from the government with social partners.”

Gary Bridgeman, project manager at the IRU, told attendees how the 27 EU member states had still not managed to reach a consensus on a common method for delivering the Driver CPC.

He said: “Some states offer the Initial Driver CPC as a test only, while others offer a mix of test and practical. Costs vary a lot across member states, but it is important that states have a mutual recognition of other countries’ Driver CPC qualifications.”

Beverley Bell, senior traffic commissioner, said the requirement for drivers to carry out 35 hours of Driver CPC training in the five years to September 2014 will be “vigorously enforced” by the TCs and Vosa.

“The TCs speak with one voice on this – we can suspend drivers’ entitlements until they have completed their driver CPC,” she said.

Bell added it was important to make the training interesting for drivers, who were often not used to sitting in a classroom for seven hours at a time.

Meaningful training

“It won’t go away. Embrace the training and make it meaningful for the drivers – they are your front line,” she said. “Do it and do it quickly, otherwise there will be a rush. The transport industry can sometimes be a bit last minute, but this has to be done.”

Patrick Philipp, head of the IRU Academy, concluded the morning session of the conference by saying that the Driver CPC was an excellent opportunity to improve standards in the industry across the EU.

Philipp added that targets to improve road safety and cut accidents around Europe were “a priority” for his organisation, which represents operators worldwide.

“We are working towards European harmonisation of professional truck driver periodic training, something that is essential,” he explained. “My message to hauliers is: lobby the government so that road tax is also reinvested in training for the industry.” 

To discover more about project DRIVEN, visit iru.org/driven